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About Hilary Emerson Lay

Hilary Emerson Lay

Hilary was raised in Brewster, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, in a highly creative family. She grew up in an old house with a sprawling expanse of yard, great big gardens, a spooky marsh, and a veritable circus of animals. At one point or another, her family has had dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, pheasant, quail, chickens, chameleons, a crayfish, a pegasus, a parakeet, and a goat.

Her parents encouraged all of her artistic pursuits and odd little personality quirks, so Hilary spent her childhood drawing pictures (of pets real and imagined), running barefoot through the dunes, making masks, climbing trees, building fairy houses in fields, building forts in the marsh, and writing and illustrating her own stories and plays. In middle school, she won a kiwi-carving contest at Stop & Shop. Around the same time, she was awarded a summer scholarship to the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill for her three-dimensional piece titled “The Herring Run,” in which she covered dead herring in paint and stamped them onto layers of paper. This was her first and last time incorporating dead fish into her work.

From a very early age, Hilary has held a deep love of and appreciation for books, especially picture books, and her love of words and stories has grown over the course of her life. Her first job was at The Brewster Bookstore when she was thirteen years old. She went on to earn a BFA in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson College, with a concentration in Children’s Writing and Illustration. From 2002–2012, she managed The Spirit of ’76 Bookstore & Card Shop in Marblehead, MA. She thinks printed words on a page are among the world’s most beautiful things.

Hilary weaves her love of animals, words, and color into her art. She works primarily in acrylic, gouache, pen, pencil, pastel, pages from dictionaries, and line drawings from old books and encyclopedias. In addition to her painting and collaging, she creates little stuffed creatures out of socks. Her artwork is an extension of her personality: bright, energetic, imaginative, playful, and fun. With her colorful hair and tendency towards wearing stripes, she even looks a little like her sock creatures.

Hilary has two very handsome tuxedo cats named Eli and Artie; a pygmy hedgehog named Stanley Yelnats (with whom she appeared on an episode of “Animal Planet” in December 2010), and a sweet but somewhat ditsy mannequin named Bianca Kelly. Hilary has been on NPR, loves sending and receiving snail-mail to an almost incessant degree, has cupcake-pink hair and sports some gorgeous art nouveau tattoos. She is also the great granddaughter of Admiral Nimitz, is missing one of her lateral incisors, and can pull off incredible fake sneezes.

From April to August 2012, Hilary was an artist-in-residence at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, CO, where she worked on a large-scale self portrait project, brought her cityscapes to a three-dimensional level, taught classes, rode horses, explored mesas and canyons, rocked her cowboy hat, and had several art shows. Hilary lives and works in Northampton, Massachusetts, with her husband, potter Isaac Jude Snell.

Read Hilary’s artist statement >